SEO & Social Media Part II: When Elephants Battle

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(Originally posted on the Involver blog:

Last week we discussed the increasing role of social media in Search Engine Optimization. These trends are part of a larger seismic shift that is occurring in the SEO world as both Bing and Google increasingly factor social media weighting into search results. We ended with the observation that the death match between Facebook and Google to determine who will claim the gatekeeper role on the Social Web will be one of the defining struggles of this phase of the internet’s development. And, as they say, when elephants battle it is the grass that suffers.

That leaves us with only one option: don’t be the grass. The market is moving; you can’t afford to stay rooted in one spot and risk seeing your business destroyed. You need to be agile and hedge your bets. It’s no longer about whether to embrace a search-based strategy or a social strategy to make your business visible. From here out you need both and you need the two strategies to support each other.

This merger of Search and Social has become much more explicit in the last year. Bing’s Facebook-assisted Social Search marks the single biggest challenge to Google’s dominance in the search engine giant’s history and one that Google is still struggling to counter. The +1 button on its own lacks the market segmentation that is an inherent part of Bing/Facebook’s social search; so the ability to not only consider what is popular but what is popular among a particular user’s friends was a core functionality that Google had to add as quickly as possible, hence the creation of Google+.

And that neatly shows us the direction we can expect SEO to take moving forward. SEO is no longer just Search Engine Optimization; it now includes Social Media Optimization as a core component. If your content isn’t accessible on the major social networks and people aren’t sharing it, liking it, +1ing it, and generally interacting with it in a positive way your rankings are going to suffer as a result. Social is no longer just a “cool new thing”, it’s an essential core component of your business or brand’s online presence. This is true even for companies that have put no time or effort into social media at all because users can and will share anything and everything.

The question isn’t whether your brand will be represented on the various Social Media networks, it’s how your brand will be represented and whether you’ll take an active role in shaping that representation or leave it up to chance.

Assuming you’re not willing to leave the future of your brand up to chance, it’s essential that your social media pages have tools built into them that pull content from your main website into the social graph where users can interact with it. Market segmentation is absolutely critical here – your social pages need to be able to seamlessly show the correct content to the correct demographics and encourage engagement in a way that feels natural to those demographics. Moreover, it needs to do it using tools that correctly track the ‘Likes’ you receive for your effort back to your main website so you can gain the full benefit of those likes for your customers using social-enhanced searching. That’s why our feature blocks in SML tie the ‘Likes’ you receive on content imported from your site back to your site – ensuring you get the maximum possible benefit from those social interactions.

Our drive to maximize the ROI (Return on Investment) for your social media campaigns is also why we’ve built the industry’s best custom analytics tools to allow you to track whatever you need to track according to whatever criteria makes the most sense to you. Making these tools available at the code level gives you the control you need to make sure they’re deployed in a way that makes sense for your business, your customers, and your corporate strategy.

SEO isn’t something that begins after site launch, in 2011 it’s a holistic process that should begin with your very first design drafts and impact every aspect of your site’s design, functionality, and user experience. It includes code-level site optimization and loading speed considerations, it includes Social, and it includes Involver.